Pittsford pulls away from Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart to advance to Class D Final for third straight year
East Lansing – When Pittsford and Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart met in the Class D finals a year ago, Pittsford dominated the first three quarters on its way to its first title in school history.
But when the two teams met in the Class D semifinals on Thursday night, the Wildcats may not have been quite as dominant early on, but an impressive fourth quarter helped lead the way to a third straight trip to the state finals as Pittsford pulled away for a 57-39 win.
In the Class D final, Pittsford will face Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary, who topped Engadine in the first Class D semifinal of the day, on Saturday morning at 10:00am at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.
Pittsford has had little trouble with any of its opponents this year on its way to a 27-0 record, with the closest margin of victory being 12 points, but Pittsford coach Chris Hodos praised Sacred Heart’s game plan coming out on Thursday, but credited his team’s resiliency for punching its ticket back to the Breslin Center.
“That was the best team we’ve played all year,” he said. “They had a really good game plan tonight, (Sacred Heart coach) Damon (Brown) does a real good job with them, I can’t say enough about how hard they played, but our girls were resilient again tonight. We haven’t faced too many challenged this year, so I’m super proud of them, they kept adding on.”
After Sacred Heart trimmed the deficit down to just four, 31-27, late in the third quarter on a Sophie Ruggles layup, Pittsford closed out the third with six points from Jaycie Burger, first knocking down a 3-pointer and later, the senior would record another basket while drawing a foul to put the Wildcats up 36-29 at the end of three quarters.
Hodos said that he felt that his defense was key for his team in the second half, and credited Burger’s play late in the third quarter for helping spark Pittsford heading into the fourth quarter
“We feed off of our defense,” he said. “I don’t know how many times we turned the ball over tonight, but it was quite a few. But she (Burger) is a big time player and she made some big time plays for us.”
In the fourth quarter, the Wildcats outscored Sacred Heart 21-10 behind eight points from senior Maddie Clark who battled foul trouble throughout the first half.
Clark, who was called for three fouls in the first half, but didn’t pick up a foul in the second half, said that she made it a focus of hers of staying out of foul trouble in the second half and was able to make a big impact late in the game for the Wildcats.
“I know that when I am in foul trouble – and lately, it’s been frequently – I always remember that my team needs me more than I need myself,” said Clark, who was named the Class D Player of The Year earlier this week. “I’m not any help on the bench, but I am on the court, so I think in the back of my head that I have to let it go, if they make a layup, we know that’s okay, but we have to respond.”
Clark finished with a game-high 19 points and eight rebounds to lead Pittsford, while Burger chipped in with 14 points and seven rebounds. Marissa Shaw recorded eight points and eight steals as well in the win.
In the first half, Sacred Heart took an 8-7 lead in the first quarter and after losing the lead early in the second quarter, the Irish went on a quick 6-2 run to tie the game at 18-18 after a Sophie Ruggles basket.
Sacred Heart (25-2) head coach Damon Brown said having the experience from last year’s state final helped prepare his team for this year’s run and expects it to help for next season, as the Irish return all 11 players on this year’s team.
“I think we were a young team last year, of course we had Averi Gamble (2016 Class D Player of the Year), and we just jumped on her back and rode her, so we learned a lot from that,” he said. “We have a year of experience under our belt, Scout Nelson grew up a lot last year Sophie and Hadyn (Terwilliger) both were just sophomores last year and Scout was a freshman. So with a year of experience, the things that we do in the offseason, the games that we play all prepare us for this.”
Nelson finished with a team-high 16 points to lead the way for Sacred Heart, while Ruggles chipped in with eight points as well.
Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary 64, Engadine 59
East Lansing – In a matchup of two teams that have never advanced to the state finals, Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary used a strong third quarter effort to break a 30-30 halftime tie as the Cardinals would hold off Engadine to advance to the Class D finals for the first time in school history.
Michigan Lutheran Seminary (18-9) was led by 18 points and six rebounds from Rylee Pankow and 14 points and six rebounds from Meghan Blaine in the win.
Engadine (19-6) put together a late run, erasing a double-digit deficit in the closing minutes to cut the deficit to just four behind seven points in the final two minutes from senior Olivia Vaughn before Seminary was able to hold on with the help of a late free throw from Reese VanLue.
Vaughn finished with a game-high 30 points and five assists to lead Engadine, while Aubrey Simmons contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds.